Mount Boom · Sunday
The first superstar produced by the breakbeat jungle movement, Goldie popularized drum’n’bass as a form of musical expression just as relevant for living-room contemplation as techno had become by the early ’90s. Though he hardly developed the style, and his later reliance on engineers like Rob Playford and Optical to capture his sound puts into question his true musical importance, Goldie became one of the first personalities in British dance music, his gold teeth and b-boy attitude placing him leagues away from the faceless bedroom boffins who had become the norm in intelligent dance music. For the first time, England had a beat maestro and tough-guy head who could match the scores of larger-than-life hip-hop stars America had produced, and the high profile of drum’n’bass as the first indigenously British dance music made Goldie a figure of prime importance. After spending several years working on his production skills at Reinforced Records (the home of 4hero), he founded Metalheadz Records, which released seminal dark yet intelligent singles by Source Direct, Photek, J. Majik, Optical, Lemon D, Wax Doctor, and Peshay, among others. In 1995, Goldie released Timeless, one of jungle’s first and best full-length works of art. The album put him squarely at the top of the drum’n’bass heap — at least in the minds of critics and mainstream listeners — though his follow-up, SaturnzReturn, displayed an ambitious, personal side of Goldie hardly in keeping with jungle’s producer mentality.
A native of Walsall, England, Goldie was born to a Scottish-Jamaican couple and put up for adoption. He bounced around child-care homes and several sets of foster parents during his childhood years, and became fascinated with the rise of hip-hop, breakdancing, and graffiti art. By 1986, he was involved with breakdancing crews around his home of Wolverhampton; after making several trips to London for all-day breakdancing events (and to see hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa), Goldie appeared in the English documentary on graffiti art called Bombing. He also spent time in New York and Miami (working in a market stall selling customized gold teeth), but returned to England by 1988. For a time, Goldie worked at the Try 1 shop in Walsall (also selling gold teeth), then moved to London. He began hanging out with two fellow heads from the British hip-hop scene, Nellee Hooper and 3-D (later of Massive Attack), and by 1991 he’d been introduced to the breakbeat culture that birthed jungle; at the seminal club night Rage, DJs Grooverider and Fabio pitched ancient breakbeats up to 45 rpm, blending their creations with the popular rave music of the time.
Goldie was hooked on the sound of raw breakbeat techno, and he gradually switched his allegiance to jungle from the British hip-hop scene that later generated trip-hop. Through his girlfriend DJ Kemistry (later to make her name with the mixing duo Kemistry & Storm), Goldie hooked up with Dego and Mark Mac, two of the most influential figures in the emerging drum’n’bass scene. The duo’s Reinforced Records and recordings as 4hero were fostering an increasingly artistic attitude to the music, and Goldie learned much about breakbeat production and engineering at their studios. He recorded his first single as Ajax Project, then debuted on Reinforced as Metalheadz with two 1992 singles, “Killermuffin” and “Menace.” The 1993 single “Terminator” broke him into the jungle scene — besides pioneering the crucial jungle concept of time-stretching (basically extending a sample without altering its pitch) the single evinced the growing separation between the uplifting rave scene and its emerging dark side, reliant on breakbeats and restless vibes.
The name was later taken for his influential Metalheadz Records, which released material from a legion of crucial jungle artists: Photek, Doc Scott, Dillinja, Source Direct, Peshay, J Majik, Alex Reece, Lemon D, and Optical, among others. Later singles such as “Angel” and remixes for 4hero’s Reinforced label spread Goldie’s fame, and in 1995 he signed a contract with London Records. His first major-label single was “Timeless,” and his debut album of the same name followed in August 1995. He gained additional fame in early 1996, when an American tour supporting Björk sparked a relationship between the two and led to a brief engagement period before they called off a wedding. Goldie resurfaced in 1998 with a high-profile follow-up, SaturnzReturn, an epic two-disc set including one track, “Mother,” that in itself broke the 70-minute barrier. The album tanked with critics and fans, leading to a return to the underground later that year with the Ring of Saturn EP.
The beginning of the millennium ushered in a new era for Goldie’s musical production. He produced several releases during this period, the likes of which further established the rough yet similarly emotive sound with which he and Metalheadz were best known. Examples include Say You Love Me, Malice In Wonderland and Breakin Glass, each of which were instrumental in the development of Goldie’s own personal style. So too was
the output of Metalheadz’ during this period: the label amassed just shy of sixty releases throughout the decade, nurturing the likes of now-globally known drum and bass artists such as Alix Perez, Noisia and S.P.Y to name a few.
At the turn of the decade, Price received two honorary academic achievements, courtesy of Brunel University (in Social Sciences) and the University of Wolverhampton, where he became an honorary Doctor of Design. He was knighted as a Member of the British Empire (MBE) not long after, for services to music and young people. With it, he became one of few electronic musicians to ever achieve such an award.
This period proved equally fruitful music-wise, particularly in terms of Goldie’s production catalogue. He produced official remixes for two globally-known pop stars, on Ed Sheeran’s Lego House (2017) and Jessie Ware’s Midnight (2018); he released his third studio album, The Journey Man, the likes of which drew reviews from several British newspapers, including The Times and The Guardian (2017); he collaborated with UK rap icon Skepta, on Upstart (2018); and he formed Subjective, a collaborative project with fellow drum and bass producer Submotive. The duo released their first album on Sony Music in 2020, with a second album set for release later this year.
His DJ achievements were similarly successful. He began a seven-week residency at long-running London nightclub XOYO, selling out the venue multiple times in the process; he performed at global festival stages, including Glastonbury (UK), Tomorrowland (Belgium) and Primavera Sound (Spain); and he ventured into the classical music realm, hosting and performing full orchestral shows at two of London’s premiere concert halls: the Royal Albert Hall and Southbank Centre.
In most recent times, Price has also ventured into the modelling world, making his catwalk debut for high-end luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton in their SS22 menswear collection. The late Virgil Abloh personally chose him for the role, a testament to how Price is recognised and admired in several creative industries.